Q: Do you ever feel like you’re in a cooking rut? Like you’re in the habit of eating the same half dozen dishes on rotation, and that when you try to step out of the box it doesn’t quite work out, and you go back to what you know works?
(I totally get that into that funk every now and then.)
A: Here are a few quick ingredients you can whip up, which can make any boring old meal brand new again. On the other hand, don’t be afraid to let these guys take center stage in a really simple dish. My uncle once explained to me that the secret to great cooking is simplicity. Throwing every trendy ingredient and spice without thinking about how they go together just makes a mess. Sometimes the best dishes and meals are the simplest ones.
ROASTED RED PEPPERS
How to: Ina Garten says it best.
Add it to: burgers, sandwiches, salads, hummus, pizza, stuff a chicken breast, soup
Let it stand out: Mix into into a creamy penne pasta dish.
How to: I always trust the kitchn’s surefire recipes.
Add it to: pasta, burgers, sandwiches (esp. grilled cheese… see above), mix it into rice or mashed potatoes, salads, hummus, pizza,
Let it stand out: This tart. Perfect for a dinner party, and with store-bought puff pastry, it’s easy as pie. Easy as tart? (groan….)
How to: Mix equal parts of water and sugar + the flavour of your choice on medium-high heat until the sugar completely dissolves. Reduce the heat to medium low and let the mixture reduce down for another 5-10 minutes. The longer you leave it, the thicker the syrup – just be careful not to let it boil! Let the mixture cool and strain it with a mesh sieve.
Flavour suggestions: vanilla bean, pumpkin spice (1 tbsp of pumpkin purée : 1 tsp of pumpkin pie spice), lavender, berry (this works really well with frozen berries), mix a fruit and a herb (eg, strawberry basil, or lemon rosemary), etc.
Add it to: coffee, ice cream, yogurt, cream cheese, lemonade, hot chocolate
Let it stand out: Make a steamer! Just mixing it with warm milk makes a yummy and cozy drink that’s all about the flavour of your syrup.
How to: Peel your apple(s). You can slice it, dice it into little 2-3 cm cubes, or just cut it into chunks – just keep in mind that smaller bits burn more easily. Mix the apple with a pat of butter. You can add a couple of teaspoons of sugar if you want a little more caramelly sauce, but the apples will caramelize pretty well in their own natural sugar. Cook on medium heat stirring frequently for about 10 minutes. They’re done when the apples turn golden brown and smell amazing. Keep a really close eye on them though, because they can burn pretty fast.
Add it to: yogurt, oatmeal, grilled cheese, granola, sausage pizza, cheesecake, crepes/pancakes/waffles/french toast, pork chops
Let it stand out: I would totally eat this by the spoonful, but it’s brilliant served hot over plain vanilla ice cream.
I hope these yummy flavours perk up your kitchen!